Monday, March 16, 2009

The Game

David Fincher, the director of such psychological classics as Se7en and Fight Club, brought us this underappreciated film in 1997. While the themes presented aren't anything new (a self-centered workaholic getting his perspective on life back), the manner in which The Game portrays these themes is exceptional and worth watching.

The Game
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn

For a by-the-book thriller, the writing in this movie was very well constructed. Michael Ferris (who wrote Bloodfist II!) and John Brancato (who co-wrote Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation with Ferris) weave the audience through the plot in such a way where it's nearly impossible NOT to sympathize with the main character. The film tells the story of a rich investment banker (Douglas) who is given a special gift from his brother (Penn) on his 48th birthday: an invitation to a mysterious live-action event where the lines between reality and fabrication grow increasingly blurry. As he gets further involved in the conspiracy, Douglas' character Nick takes extreme action to find out the truth.

The Game is very similar to DJ Caruso's Eagle Eye in a couple different ways. First, the events that take place in both films are extraordinarily unbelievable when you imagine them happening in real-life scenarios. Second, and more importantly, the actors throw themselves so heavily into the role that any issues you may have with realism don't really matter anymore; you're too busy gripping your seat and wondering how the main character is going to escape the next harrowing predicament. [Don't get me wrong - Eagle Eye is a much more fun experience than The Game, but that's to be expected when David Fincher is involved. The guy doesn't exactly produce buckets of sunshine on screen.] Michael Douglas absolutely nails it as the uptight exec, and plays Nick with equal parts astonishment and anger as he is continually swept deeper into the titular activity. Roger Ebert said Douglas' character was a mix of Gordon Gekko (from Wall Street) and Michael's character from Falling Down, which is as good a description as any.

Fincher's directing is outstanding as usual; this time around he chooses to rely heavily on slow tracking shots that give the film an extra dose of gravitas. He coaxes a great performance out of the always-stellar Douglas, and gets some quality work out of his supporting cast that included Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, and you'd-know-him-if-you-saw-him character actor James Rebhorn. Abundant use of light and shadows add to the mystique, and the cinematography is dark and brooding; this provides a visual parallel to Nick's paranoia and allows the bond between the audience and the protagonist to grow on a subconscious level.

I'd say The Game is definitely an interesting movie. If you're a Michael Douglas fan, then by all means check this out. But even if the guy doesn't necessarily do it for you, I'd still suggest giving this a watch if you're in the mood for a good psychological thriller. Until next time...


Jacob said...

I think I must have seen this movie when it first came out on video, which dates my viewing of it circa 1998. All I remember is thinking, at the end, "wow this movie is weird..."

Looking at Fincher's work as a whole, I think that even if one doesn't like his style, one can respect it. His movies have a visceral quality to them.
They're always gripping, even if they're cold or distant in their tone. I liked ZODIAC because I think Fincher masterfully captured the period of the late 60s-early 70s, and also made it more of an ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN-type movie than a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS-type, which was needed since we've gotten too much of the latter in recent years with the SAW franchise, ad nauseum.
Good filmmakers make you remember images of their movies for years after, and Fincher succeeds on that level every time.

Ben Pearson said...

Well said. Especially that last sentence - I wish I would have thought of that to put in my actual review, hah.